Synopsis of OT X homily on Gen 3. 9:15; II Cor 4:13–5:1; Mk 3:20-35
Introduction: The readings for today, the Tenth Sunday [B] in Ordinary Time, give the name “sin” to our offenses against God. When we sin — violate God’s Commandments — we distance ourselves from Him; when we refuse, or fear, to admit our sins, we deny ourselves God’s freely offered pardon and forgiveness.
Scripture lessons: In describing Adam and Eve’s first sin, disobedience, our first reading, taken from Genesis, explains the beginning of evil in the world with its destructive results. The loving relationship joining man to God is destroyed, and the relationship of mutual love between Adam and Eve is weakened. Their default to a “blame game” allowed each to avoid taking personal responsibility for their joint choice. In the second reading, Paul declares to the Corinthians that the many adversities of his missionary work were God’s plan for his spiritual growth; his sufferings, offered with Jesus for the Salvation of the world, would result a glorious reward for him and for all believers who did the same. Today’s Gospel passage reveals how Jesus himself was misunderstood by his own relatives and was criticized, slandered and rejected by the Sanhedrin-led scribes and Pharisees. His sufferings for us give us courage and his offer of healing, strength and forgiveness, so that we can do as he did when we face unfair treatment and criticism in our lives.
Life messages: 1) Today’s Scriptures challenge us to face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism. Very often our friends, families, or childhood companions fail to listen to us and refuse to accept the words of grace, love and encouragement that we offer to them because they are too familiar with us. But we have to face such rejection with prophetic courage because by our Baptism we are called to be prophets like Jesus, sharing his prophetic mission. As prophets, our task is to speak the truth and oppose the evils in our society without condoning or encouraging sinful behavior even in our dear ones.
2) We need to have the courage of our convictions: Modern “liberal-minded” people may find genuine Christians’ belief in and practice of Christ’s ideas and ideals crazy too. Hence, what is needed in a Christian is the courage of his or her convictions based on the authority of Jesus as God and the truth of his doctrines.
3) We need to live as members of God’s family: Let us remember that by Baptism we become the children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and members of the Heavenly family of the Triune God. Hence, let us observe our obligations of treating others with love and respect and of sharing our love with them in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We are also His disciples, and so are obliged to be hearers as well as doers of the word of God. Let us keep our souls daily cleansed and filled with the Spirit of God, leaving no space for the evil spirit to enter our souls.
OT X (B) Gen 3. 9:15; II Cor 4:13–5:1; Mk 3:20-35 (L/18)
Introduction: The readings for today, the Tenth Sunday [B] in Ordinary Time, give the name “sin” to our offenses against God. When we sin — violate His Commandments — we distance ourselves from Him; when we refuse, or fear, to admit our sins, we deny ourselves God’s freely offered pardon and forgiveness. In describing Adam and Eve’s first sin, disobedience, our first reading, taken from Genesis, explains the beginning of evil in the world with its destructive results. The loving relationship joining man to God is destroyed, and the relationship of mutual love between Adam and Eve is weakened. Their default to a “blame game” allowed each to avoid taking personal responsibility for their joint choice. In the second reading, Paul declares to the Corinthians that the many adversities of his missionary work were God’s plan for his spiritual growth; his sufferings, offered with Jesus for the Salvation of the world, would result a glorious reward for him and for all believers who did the same. Today’s Gospel passage reveals how Jesus himself was misunderstood by his own relatives and was criticized, slandered and rejected by the Sanhedrin-led scribes and Pharisees. His sufferings for us give us courage and his offer of healing, strength and forgiveness, so that we can do as he did when we face unfair treatment and criticism in our lives.
Anecdotes: 1) “What’s in a name? and “Whatever Became of Sin?” Among William Shakespeare’s prolific contributions to English literature, there are literally thousands of memorable lines that continue to be quoted because of their eloquence and timeless significance. One of these is the famous line, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet, act 2, sc.2, l.43). I would paraphrase it, what’s in a name? That which we call sin, by any other name would still be sin! There appears to be a tendency in contemporary society to disregard or minimize sin or to call it by another name. Similarly, there is a tendency to ignore evil. The sense of shame regarding sin was renamed and the so-called “guilt complex” have become public enemy number one. In today’s readings, Yahweh God in Genesis, St. Paul, and Jesus call sin a sin. (Patricia Sanchez)
2) “Whatever Became of Sin? “In his study of the subject, entitled, “Whatever Became of Sin? psychiatrist Karl Menninger stated that although sin was once a strong word, which described an ominous aspect of every human being’s life, life-plan and life-style, the word, along with the notion of sin has all but disappeared. The reality of sin, however, has not disappeared; it has simply been renamed. Sin may masquerade under several aliases, but it remains, nonetheless, what it is. For example, the sins of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, the sins of Vietnam, Bosnia and Rwanda have been hidden behind an acclaimed patriotism or other ideologies. Soldiers, who have systematically gang-raped and slaughtered helpless women have claimed justification for their actions due to the exigencies of war and their “moral obligation” to obey their superiors. Other heinous sins have been dismissed by excusing their perpetrators on ground of temporary insanity, or a troubled youth, or emotional instability. Some sins have been paraded under the guise of freedom of choice, ignorance, and aggressive or self-destructive behavior. Menninger suggested that one of the reasons that sin is not recognized and named for what it is may be due to the fact that the major responsibility for identifying and dealing with misbehavior has been taken over by the State. Much of what is really sin is now called crime, and actions which are blatantly immoral, are now labeled illegal. Murder, robbery, treason, adultery and lying have become defined as criminal acts with prescribed punishments. Because of this shift in responsibility, the consequences of sin have become depersonalized and the reality of sin as a breach in the relationship with God and with others has been overlooked. The readings for today’s liturgy invite the gathered assembly to take a hard look at sin, to call it by name and to take back our responsibility for it. Similarly, we are challenged to look evil in the eye and, without blinking, own it for the reality that it is.
3) Don’t allow rejection to derail your dreams: Brilliant British theologian G.K. Chesterton could not read until he was eight years old. A teacher said if his head were opened they would probably find a lump of fat where there was supposed to be a brain. That teacher was wrong. Einstein’s parents were informed by a teacher that he would never amount to anything. Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was rejected by seven publishers. Richard Bach got twenty rejection slips before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published. Dr. Seuss, one of the most popular children’s authors of all time, got more than two dozen rejection slips before The Cat in the Hat made it to print. Ruth Graham felt an uncontrollable urge to run out of the meeting the first time she heard Billy Graham preach. She was not convinced of his preaching ability. She was put off by his preaching style. Billy had to improve his preaching before Ruth would become his wife. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus encountered rejection with prophetic courage.
4) Preachers rejected: Ezekiel and Jesus. Ezekiel was called to be both priest and prophet to God’s people during the most devastating time in their history. Six short years after he began preaching to Israel in the year 593 B.C., the holy city of Jerusalem was captured and destroyed, and just about every last person in Israel was carried off in chains to exile in Babylon. What is worse, Ezekiel saw it coming and told people. He told them it was God’s way of punishing them for being so thick-skulled and hard-hearted (3.7). Predictably, they refused to listen. This was the good news according to Ezekiel! This was the hand God asked this preacher to play! The chosen people didn’t believe him, of course, even when the Babylonians started setting fire to their homes and hacking down the carved pillars in their beautiful temple. They stubbornly denied the truth about themselves the whole time they were being dragged off, kicking and screaming to Babylon. And it was not until there, years later, with no Temple in which to offer sacrifice and no other sacred rituals permitted to them, that they began meeting in Ezekiel’s house (8.1), where this bug-eyed prophet also learned how to become their priest. Softened up by the experience of desolation they could no longer deny, they began, for the first time, to listen to this old friend who had never given up on them and who reminded them of the God Who had no intention of giving up on them either. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus, the real Messiah, was rejected by his relatives and slandered by the Sanhedrin observers.
The first reading: Gen 3:9-15, explained: The Genesis account explains the causes of human shame and sin, asserts the sovereignty of the one God over all creation, and expresses the superiority of the worship of that God over rival religions. “Each of the three punishments given to the snake, the woman, the man, has a double aspect, one affecting the individual and the other affecting a basic relationship. The snake previously stood upright, enjoyed a reputation for being shrewder than other creatures, and could converse with human beings as in vv. 1–5. It must now move on its belly, is more cursed than any creature, and inspires revulsion in human beings (v. 15). I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at His heel. In Christian tradition, the snake was identified with the devil (Wis 2:24; Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2), whose eventual defeat seemed implied in the verse. Because “the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8), the passage was understood as the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind, the Protoevagelium. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. A.D. 130–200), in his Against Heresies 5.21.1, followed by several other Fathers of the Church, interpreted the verse as referring to Christ, and cited Gal 3:19 and 4:4 to support the reference. Another interpretive translation is ipsa, “she,” and is reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. “She” was thought to refer to Mary, the mother of the messiah. In Christian art, Mary is sometimes depicted with her foot on the head of the serpent.” (USCCB commentary). Historically, this has elements of an early explanation of the very common human fear of snakes. Theologically, it reminds us of the early rivalry between worshipers of Yahweh and worshipers of Baal. The cult of Baal included sacred prostitution as a fertility rite, of which the serpent was an apt symbol. So, the shame that the couple feels over having been deceived by the representative of Baal is a caution to Yahweh’s faithful: “Don’t mess with the religion of Baal or you will be shamed.”
The second reading (II Cor 4. 13-5) explained: In spite of the unfair criticism leveled against him and his gospel ministry by some Corinthian Christians, Paul is optimistic about his future and that of his critics, waiting for “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” When Paul left for other mission venues, the Corinthian community was so flourishing that it got rather wild, and Paul wrote his first letter to them to correct some abuses. He promised another visit but changed his plans. This earned him serious criticism and ridicule from some Corinthians, so his second letter to them is somewhat defensive. He asserts his authority as an apostle (always in issue, given his late conversion), and seizes their criticism of his inconsistency to write a magnificent salute to the fidelity of God. Like the Psalmist, Paul clearly proclaims his Faith, affirming Life within himself despite death (2 Cor 4:10–11) and the Life-giving effect of his experience upon the Church (2 Cor 4:12, 14–15). Paul imagines God presenting him and them to Jesus at the Parousia and the judgment. In a series of contrasts Paul explains the extent of his Faith in Life. Life is not only already present and revealing itself (2 Cor 4:8–11, 16) but will outlast his experience of affliction and dying: this Life is eternal (2 Cor 4:17–18). Paul is still speaking of himself personally, but he assumes his Faith and attitude will be shared by all Christians. The renewal already taking place, even in Paul’s dying, is a share in the Life of Jesus, but this is recognized only by Faith (2 Cor 4:13, 18; 2 Cor 5:7). (USCCB commentary).
Gospel exegesis: The context: The well-loved carpenter turned crazy preacher? Putting evil in its place and naming sin for what it is, Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel, that sin and evil must be confronted whether it is in ourselves, our relatives, our friends or our enemies. The first part of today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus’ relatives and fellow-villagers wrongly judged him as out of his mind and consequently tried to take him by force back to Nazareth to do his safe and secure job as a good carpenter. That is why Jesus remarked, “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36). There were four reasons why Jesus’ people thought he was mad and attempted to dissuade him from his preaching and healing mission. First, Jesus had abandoned his safe and secure job as a much-needed village carpenter with steady income to become a wandering preacher with no residence or steady income. Second, Jesus had chosen a band of fishermen with no political or social influence, a hated tax-collector and a fanatic zealot as his disciples. Third, Jesus had begun to criticize the power lobby – the scribes and Pharisees – in the Jewish religious headquarters, Jerusalem, labeling them hypocrites. Jesus’ relatives might really have been afraid that Jesus would be arrested, and they would be persecuted with him for criticizing those in power. Fourth, Jesus had silently claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah and had worked miracles to support his claim.
The Sanhedrin slander refuted: The second part of today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ crushing reply to the slander propagated by the observers sent from the Sanhedrin, that Jesus expelled devils using the assistance of the leader of devils. Jesus refutes the false allegation raised against him by the Sanhedrin scribes with three counter-arguments and a warning: 1) A house divided against itself will perish, and a country engaged in civil war will be ruined. Hence, Satan will not fight against Satan by helping Jesus to expel his coworkers. 2) If Jesus is collaborating with Satan to exorcise minor demons, then the Jewish exorcists are doing the same. 3) Jesus claims that he is using the power of his Heavenly Father to evict devils just as a strong man guards a house and its possessions from the thief. 4) Finally, Jesus gives a crushing blow to his accusers, warning them that by telling blatant lies they are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and, hence, their sins are unforgivable.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” The context: As Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his mother and cousins came to take him to Nazareth by force, perhaps because they feared that Jesus would be arrested and put to death. Today’s Gospel episode seems to suggest that Jesus ignored the request of his mother and close relatives who had traveled a long distance to talk to him. But everyone in the audience knew that Jesus loved his mother and had taken care of her for thirty years. Besides, Jesus’ plain answer, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” was actually a compliment to his mother who had always listened to the word of God and obeyed it. Jesus was declaring, “Blessed are those who hear and keep the word of God as she is faithfully doing” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58). Jesus was also using the occasion to teach the congregation a new lesson about their relationship with God. Being a disciple of Jesus, or a Christian, is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of love and unity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children. Jesus has changed the order of relationships and shows us here that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. God’s gracious gift to us is His adoption of us as His sons and daughters. This gift enables us to recognize all those who belong to Christ as our brothers and sisters. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and His kingdom. “Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he is like Him who fulfilled the will of His Father. But he who not only obeys but converts others, begets Christ in them, and thus becomes like the Mother of Christ” (“Commentary on St. Matthew”, 12:49-50.)
Did Jesus have brothers and sisters? Catholic Church teaches that Jesus did not have blood brothers and sisters. The problem arises because we read in Mark about the crowd asking, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters our neighbors here?” (Mk 6:3). A similar reference occurs earlier in Mk 3:31 — “His mother and brothers arrived….” At first hearing, the words seem to state that Jesus did indeed have blood brothers and sisters. But the Greek word adelphos, was used to describe brothers not born of the same parents, like a half-brother or step-brother. The word also described other relationships like cousins, nephews, etc. For example, in Genesis 13:8 and 14:14-16, the word adelphos was used to describe the relationship between Abraham and his nephew Lot and the relation between Laban and his nephew Jacob. In the Gospel, Mary of Clopas is called “the sister” of Mary, the Mother of Jesus where sister means only a cousin. In Hebrew and Aramaic languages, no special word existed for cousin, nephew, half-brother, or step-brother. So, they used the word brother in all these cases. The Greek translation of the Hebrew texts used the word adelphos. In addition, other Gospel passages clarify these relationships between James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. James the Less and Joses were the sons of Mary the wife of Clopas (Mk 15:40, Jn 19:25), and James the Less was also identified as “the son of Alphaeus” (Lk 6:15), a synonym of “Clopas.” James the Greater and John were the sons of Zebedee with a mother other than our Blessed Mother Mary (Mt 20:20ff). After the birth of our Lord, although the Gospels do not give us many details of Jesus’ childhood, no mention is made of Mary and Joseph ever having other children. Never does it refer to the “sons of Mary” or “a son of Mary,” but only the son of Mary. By this time, St. Joseph has died. Since Jesus, the first-born, had no “blood brother,” when He was hanging on the cross, He entrusted Mary to the care of St. John, the Beloved Disciple. Interestingly, the Orthodox Churches solve this problem over brothers and sisters by speculating that St. Joseph was an elderly widower who had other children before he married Mary. The earliest explanation of who the brothers and sisters were, found in the second-century document known as The Protoevagelium of James, is that they were stepbrothers through Joseph. According to this document, Joseph was an elderly widower who agreed to become the guardian of Mary, a consecrated virgin. Being elderly and already having children, he was not seeking to raise a new family and so was an appropriate guardian for a virgin. This theory is consistent with Joseph’s apparent death before the ministry of Jesus. It is the standard explanation in Eastern Christendom of who the brethren of Christ are. Shortly before the year 400, St. Jerome began to popularize the view that the brethren of Christ were cousins, and this view became common in the West. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has faithfully taught that Mary gave birth only to Jesus, whom she had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Life messages: 1) Today’s Scriptures challenge us to face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism. Very often our friends, families, or childhood companions fail to listen to us and refuse to accept the words of grace, love and encouragement that we offer to them because they are too familiar with us. Hence, they are unable to see us as God’s appointed instruments, the agents of God’s healing and saving grace. But we have to face such rejection with prophetic courage because by our Baptism we are called to be prophets like Jesus, sharing his prophetic mission. As prophets, our task is to speak the truth and oppose the evils in our society without condoning or encouraging sinful behavior even in our dear ones. Let us also acknowledge, appreciate and encourage the prophets of our time who stand for truth and justice in our society with the wisdom of God in their heads, the power of the Holy Spirit in their words and the courage of God in their actions.
2) We need to have the courage of our convictions: Modern “liberal-minded” people may find genuine Christians’ belief in and practice of Christ’s ideas and ideals crazy too. Hence, what is needed in a Christian is the courage of his or her convictions based on the authority of Jesus as God and the truth of his doctrines. Many saints, following Christ’s example, have been taken for madmen–but they were mad with love, mad with love for Jesus Christ.
2) We need to fill our minds with the Holy Spirit: Jesus teaches that we can be influenced by the evil spirit if we listen to him and follow him. Hence, we have to keep our souls daily cleansed and filled with the Spirit of God, leaving no space for the evil spirit to enter our souls.
3) We need to live as members of God’s family: Let us remember that by Baptism we become the children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and members of the Heavenly family of the Triune God. Hence, let us observe our obligations of treating others with love and respect and of sharing our love with them in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We are also His disciples, and so are obliged to be hearers as well as doers of the word of God.
Joke of the Week: Rejection at the Pearly Gate, too: A cab driver reaches the Pearly Gates and announces his presence to St. Peter, who looks him up in his Big Book. Upon reading the entry for the cabby, St. Peter invites him to grab a silk robe and a golden staff and to proceed into Heaven. A preacher is next in line behind the cabby and has been watching these proceedings with interest. He announces himself to St. Peter. Upon scanning the preacher’s entry in the Big Book, St. Peter furrows his brow and says, “Okay, we’ll let you in, but take that cotton robe and wooden staff.” The preacher is astonished and replies, “But I am a man of the cloth. You gave that cab driver a gold staff and a silk robe. Surely, I rate higher than a cabby.” St. Peter responded matter-of-factly: “Here we are interested in results. When you preached, people slept. When the cabby drove his taxi, people prayed.”
4 Additional anecdotes: 1) Rejection hurts: Arnold Palmer played his last Master’s Tournament in 2002. Palmer, who won the Master’s in 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964, had seen his game slip away with age and his stardom fade with the rise of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. A reporter asked Palmer, “Why did you do it? Why did you quit?” To which Palmer replied, “I didn’t want to get the letter that former champions Ford, Brewer, and Casper have already received asking them to step down.” Whether it’s that girl in elementary school who looked at you in disdain when you offered her a Valentine card, or the boss that suggests you are not included in the company’s new plans, rejection hurts. It causes pain. Yet, Jesus faced rejection heroically and said it’s going to happen and we will be wise to live with it, for “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” There is some rejection that’s worth the cost.
2) “The World’s Strongest Man” Macho men always want to brag about how strong they are. Some boys on a school playground were bragging. Johnny said, “My dad has a list of all the men he can beat up—and all your dads are on his list!” Later that afternoon a knock came on Johnny’s house and his dad answered the door. A big angry man said, “Are you Johnny’s dad?” He said, “I am.” “Well Johnny told my son said you have a list of men you think you can beat up, and my name is on it.” Johnny’s dad said, “That’s right.” The big guy started rolling up his sleeves and said, “Well, I don’t think you can beat me up. What are you going to do about it?” Johnny’s dad said, “I’ll mark you off my list.”
Guys are always bragging about who’s the strongest. Since 1977 there has been a televised event called “The World’s Strongest Man.” Most of the winners have come from Finland, Iceland, and Eastern Europe. These guys are required to perform amazing feats of strength like pulling a Boeing 747 with their teeth. These aren’t body-builders; they are bulked up dudes. One of the competitors from Iceland, who is nicknamed Thor, stands 6’9” and weighs 435 pounds. No six-pack abs on these guys, they go for the full keg! So, who do you think was the strongest man in the Bible? Are you thinking of the book of Judges and the guy with long hair who could kill a lion with his bare hands? Samson was pretty strong, but after he got a haircut in the devil’s barbershop, he lost his strength. In our passage today, Jesus is going to talk about a strong man; then He’s going to mention a stronger man. Jesus claims that God his Father is “The World’s Strongest Man” who would protect us from the evil one. (Rev. David Duke).
3) A house divided against itself cannot stand.” On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, for the Republican State Convention, and they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. That evening Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues and the main focus of his remarks were on the issue of slavery: “Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention. If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, NOT ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.” “A house divided against itself cannot stand.’” That’s a powerful sentence! Did Abraham Lincoln come up with that phrase all by himself? No. Well, where did he get it? That’s right … he was quoting Jesus and the quote is from today’s Gospel where Jesus gives a crushing blow to the Scribes who accused Jesus of collaborating with Beelzebub for his exorcisms.
4) ‘United We Stand Divided We Fall’: I read about a Church that had grown to the point of needing a new building. After the building was completed, a disagreement arose about which side of the auditorium they should put the piano. Words were exchanged, tempers flared, and the Church ultimately split. The side that “won” kept the building, but they no longer needed the extra seating and could not afford to pay the mortgage … so they had to sell it. (Tim Seevers, in The Pleasant Viewer June 2000). And I also have read about another Church down in Texas where folks go so mad at each other that the Church split and then they fought over the property. Each group filed lawsuits against the other group. During a hearing, it was discovered that the conflict had begun years before at a church dinner (pause) when an elder was served a smaller piece of ham than the child seated next to him. (Jim Belcher, 10/12/09 Sermoncentral.com article). L/18
(Prepared by: Fr. Anthony. Kadavil, St. John the Baptist Church, P. O. Box 417, Grand Bay, AL 36541, USA)